Quest: Passers-By and A Voice in the Dark

“—ntrarian but when someone tells you to stay on the path, you do it,” Arabella told me. It was difficult to catch the expression, because eir head was a giant orange rose starkly veined like lettuce, and the voice was more like a scent, but I’d like to say ‘amused but only because it had been a good day’.

“The King had it sorted,” I argued, but quietly. Oh, we were doing this; sometimes it stops and starts, but this concluding conversation happened weeks ago.

Same place, though.

We paused, having arrived at the center.

“What else are you going to leave to someone else’s problem?” The Laetha’s fingers were calyx petals, closing my own hand around the hilt of my broadsword. “What is this for? Who is this for?”

Ey sounded curious, back then, but of course it troubled me that I didn’t have a ready answer.


“—rds honour you, my deeds even better. This I pray.”

Doesn’t usually get an answer, but this time—

“No,” the King’s tone of voice was like the dark of night, the part that’s a relief after a day so hot and bright that fuzzy cyan ghosts of serpents and jellyfish cloud the vision of anyone who steps outside. “I told you to keep to the path.”

It was only a voice, though. Is that more reliable than a visual, or less? This could still be the other Clarene.

Hell, the one I kept referring to as the Laetha Arabella could have been a common flower fae.

I keep telling myself that it’s the message that matters. The otherworlds can go on being as zany as it is, and I just roll with it. Anything I carry over to the corporeal or sidereal worlds, I must admit are all on me.

“Giving someone a limitation isn’t the same as giving them wisdom,” I said. “I can live with myself better now. I couldn’t trust that would happen by doing everything you tell me to—that’s not even why you tell me, so…”

I had a knowing, though the voice didn’t come with a body I could see, that the Clarene was pulling a sewing needle from eir earlobe—where I’d run it through months ago, at the Clarene’s suggestion. With a flip of eir hair, the piercing had never been, and I had a certainty that the bass clef shape at the back of the shell of eir ear had dissolved.

“I did you a favor,” the voice said. “Remind me not to do that again.”

“I think you’d remember,” I replied, gloomily. (That had been a massive help and relief, and I’d just gotten used to feeling exactly whelmed, and then I’d started forgotting why.)

“No,” the voice said again, distantly. “I wouldn’t.”